A case currently before the Supreme Court has the potential to substantially weaken public sector unions, most of whom vehemently support Democratic candidates. This case has also revealed that taxpayers may be unknowingly, and unwillingly, funding Democratic political causes.
As of now, 22 states have compulsory public sector union dues, meaning that teachers, laborers, and other public sector workers working in those states must pay union fees. Taxpayer dollars pay the salaries of these workers, who in turn must pay a portion to unions — the four largest of which in the country overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates.
For example, compulsory union dues fund the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) which contribute 94 percent of their political donations to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets. Moreover, from 2004 to 2016, their donations skyrocketed from $4.3 million to more than $32 million.
Interestingly, labor experts have predicted a significant percentage of employees would stop supporting their union if given the choice, the LA Times reports.
The Supreme Court will take up the question of whether or not compulsory dues violate an employee’s right to freedom of speech in Janus v. AFSCME -- a question that the case Freidrichs vs. California Teacher’s Association raised last year. This case stalemated 4 to 4 after the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The current case involves Mark Janus, an employee of the Illinois state government. Janus sued the American Federation of State union, claiming that he does not agree with the causes that they fund and vocally support.
Mark A. Mix, the president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation that helped to bring the new case, stated, “for too long, millions of workers across the nation have been forced to pay dues and fees into union coffers as a condition of working for their own government. Requiring public servants to subsidize union officials’ speech is incompatible with the First Amendment.”Legal scholars believe that if Scalia had ruled on Friedrichs, compulsory union dues would have been ruled unconstitutional. It remains to be seen whether or not the newest addition to the court -- Justice Neil Gorsuch -- will rule similarly to break the previous 4 to 4 stalemate that resulted in the previous, similar case.
Kate Hardiman is pursuing a Masters in Education from Notre Dame and teaches English and Religion at a high school in Chicago.